Friday, December 21, 2012

Happy Holidays!

My holiday greetings to you, done in the style of Souwere (glass painting.)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Senegalese Print Palazzo Pants

A few years ago I was at an event for artists of many different media and I remember having a conversation with a man who suggested that clothing could be designed just by draping, pinning.  Whoa, I was just learning how to sew and that was a mind-blowing idea. No pattern?  Well, voila, here are some pants I conceived the idea of and used a combination of the draping method and modeling them on some boot cut pants, that, well, fit my booty.  The legs, of course, in Palazzo pants style angle out from the fitted hips to the ankles.  The result is they are very comfortable and dressy. 
Senegalese fabric is just so great.  Check out the print. The back side of the fabric is the same print but without the metallic gold.  I have made the pants 100% reversible so I can wear them casually if I choose. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Goree Island scene 'floating' on glass with reclaimed wood frame
Souwere artist Abdoulaye Barry
 “Souwere” is glass painting.  There is an explaination of the process on the Senegal Soul blog.  I went to Goree island as a committee member of the Dakar Women's Group annual art show and visited with Abdoulaye Barry, a Senegalese Souwere artist who has been working in the genere since his youth.  M. Barry took us to a hotel/restaurant hosting his works and then took us to his small studio where he showed us works in progress and discussed the process of reverse glass painting. His art is distinctive for his landscapes of Goree island and his use of beach wood and reclaimed wood for his unusual and beautiful distressed wood frames. 
M Barry's work at the hotel  

Works in progress and our explaination of reverse glass painting at his studio

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

New Shoes

My daughter is out growing her clothes at the usual furious pace of young children.  Believe it or not I squirrelled away some of the clothes my boys had.  (OK, actually I squirreled away just about all of them but I gave most away when we found out we were having a girl.)  So now that my girl needs some new sneakers out pop her older brother's new pair.  Ta-tah.  The only problem is she is a VERY girly girl.  My daughter had a lot of suggestions "These shoes need pink and purple, and some yellow too. And some flowers. And some glitter."  At that list I said "Stop, I can only do so much." So, after a little Pebeo Setacolor fabric paint in metallic pinks and purple and some Jaquard Neopaque yellow paint with a glaze of transparent Tulip glitter demensional fabric paint, as they say here, Voila! I hope she doesn't expect this every time. 

Here are my before and after pictures. Unfortunately, the glitter doesn't show up well in the photo.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Argyle Rose Patterned Designs

Whenever my life is in transition my brain is working overtime.  I think it is a product of new stimulation and lack of regular schedule.  I filled pages of my sketchbook with ideas upon my arrival to Senegal and I am just now getting around to make some of those ideas a reality.  Below the photos are links to my newest design, Rose Argyle in three colorways.  I am awaiting the proofs back from Spoonflower.  If they look good this design will be available as fabric, wallpaper or wrapping paper.  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Senegal Reflections

Senegal is a feast for the senses in every way.  Living in downtown Dakar was definitely overwhelming but also very interesting and exciting.  We stayed in downtown August and September until we moved to a house in a quieter suburb.   The weather this time of the year is sweltering with humidity in the 80 – 90%.   On weekdays the streets begin to get crowded around 11 am and by noon the traffic is bumper to bumper.  There are small street vendors and beggars lined up on the sidewalks on every street.  It is loud with the sounds of the people speaking French, Wolof and Arabic, vendors hawking their wares and trying to gain attention and vehicles honking and slowly making their way through traffic. We could even hear the noise from our apartment on the 6th floor.  There are strong smells of diesel, trash, food, and people.
 Traditional Senegalese food is strongly flavored with peanuts, fish, peppers and onion flavors.  So far I have only tasted a chicken and onion dish called Yassa Poulet.  It was good.  When we get a car, I hope to be able to sample other selections.  Fast food dishes popular in America are popular here as well.  Almost every cafĂ© and tea house sell hamburgers and the Senegalese version of pizza.  Schwarma, a pulled meat wrap/pita with a kind of curry like sauce, are also a popular cafe food item.  A surprise to me was the number of bakeries selling fancy pastries, quiches, ice cream and chocolate.  The ice cream and quiches are as good as in any artisanal bakery in the US.  
One thing that really captivated me is the Senegalese fashion sense.  It is diverse and they wear Western style, traditional African and Arabic clothing.  Some women cover their hair, some do not.  It appears to be up to the individual.  Here are some photos from local fashion magazines.  As you can see, Senegalese love color and embroidery and the top row of pictures are of fancy dress.    The men in the top row are wearing 'boubous.'  Brightly colored wax prints are popular for daily wear as seen in the bottom row on the left and right. The women’s outfits are known as a 'complet.' Tradional clothing for casual wear by women could be western or a 'pagne' which is a sarong style skirt of fabric (usually the wax block print) with a western style shirt, such as a t-shirt.  Senegalese also have a sense of humor in thier dress; yesterday I saw a woman in the market with a dress with garden sprinklers printed on it. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Ah, Senegal

It has been just over three months since I left South Africa.  We spend nearly six weeks visiting family and friends around the United States and now we are settling into our new home in Dakar, Senegal.  Most of my time is spent with family, unpacking and learning French but that itch to create is too strong to ignore.  Here is my first offering, a fabric design with a limited pallet that I will probably submit to a Spoonflower fabric design contest.  The birds are Yellow Wagtails. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Fabric Postcard Exchange

I have been pretty quiet these days with the DollStreet Dreamers online group.  I am still interested in making artdolls but other projects are taking up my time.  So, I try to occasionally take part in group activities with this amazing group of artists so despite packing up and getting ready to leave South Africa.  Last month I committed to sending 10 fabric postcards out to other artists with the optional theme "Spring".  I must be crazy.
I miniaturized my Spoonflower fabric, Love in All Seasons for the back ground and then used Wonder Under to applique hand painted fabric tree tops and commercial fabric trunks to the the background.  I finished the design with commercial stamps of birds.  I hope they enjoy the postcards.  I mailed these out a couple of weeks ago.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Traveler's Backpack (Rucksack)

I mentioned in my Cape Town travelogue that I planned on using some fabric I purchased there.  I decided to use it and some of the Shweshwe to create a backpack to replace the one I have carried around for years that is now MIA.  There are a lot of patterns out there for children's backpacks but I was looking for a more grown up model but something more practical than the City backpack patterns that I have run across.  I began by looking at my husband's pack and taking measurements and ideas from it and what I remembered of my old, favorite pack.  I wrote down the measurements, sketched my ideas and began cutting!
One of the hardest parts was lining up the curved areas for sewing. I must have pinned some areas 5 times! Sewing through all of those layers was no picnic either, especially since the bag has more layer than is visible- it is lined with yellow polyester inside and quilted on the back.  I used the lining to make it easier to see the interior and because it will wipe down better.  I used my zipperfoot to guide me when sewing the area with the cording.  I felt the one of the ubiquitous beaded keychains made just the right touch for finishing the look of it. 
Now I am ready to be on my way and with a very special souvenir from my time in this country.  My eldest son complimented my bag saying it looked like I bought it from a street vendor. 

One of the most helpful tips in this process was a Youtube video on putting in zippers.  I have always slopped through the zippers but why do that when Youtube is a wealth of knowledge?  My favorite series of videos were by Candi Cane-Canncel.  They ought to have a link to follow from one video to the next but you can look for the tell-tale pink fabric.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Mosaic in Pretoria

Mosaic is a very popular art form in Pretoria and as far as I can tell throughout South Africa.  Even tiny gift and craft stores carry Mosaic supplies and there are several studios where you can go to Mosaic much like the stores to paint pottery in the United States.  A South African craft magazine, Craftwise, seems to have a mosaic article every month.  Due to the prevalence of mosaic the boys and I decided to make mosaic picture frames for dad at the i Create Studio.  It is really amazing how their artwork reflects their personality.
Here are some photos of mosaic in the community.  Badec Bros has a cool mosaic along a busy street out side their showroom. House numbers are often done in an artistic way in Pretoria. Even the side of a building may be done in mosaic.

There are several examples of mosaic in restaurants, the most obvious is Restaurant Mosaic, with it's beautiful mosaics of Mucha's designsLa Pentola has a large tree mosaic on one of the back walls. Notice the mosaic pillars at Cafe 41 or the beautiful giant garden pots at Braza. (As an aside, take time to look at the interesting menus of these restaurants as well.)  Most mosaic is in interior spaces that I don't have access to but at the bottom of the page are some photos from the web that show the kind of designs popular with crafters.    The photos are from which has some free step by step classes online.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ocean Chevron Quilt

Pictured above is my middle son's quilt.  This has been the hardest quilt to make, not just because of all of the extra sewing of the triangular pieces, but all of the little obstacles that have gotten in my way. First off, one of the fabrics I ordered never arrived.  The company replaced the fabric but the long wait delayed my start in layout and sewing.  Finally, I decided to layout the fabric without the last pieces and just track where the missing pieces would go once I got them.  Surprisingly, that worked out.  I sewed all of the strips that did not contain the missing fabric and numbered them so I would know where each strip went.  Once the fabric came and I was able finish sewing the top I took it to a quilt shop who sends it away to longarm quilters to finish.  When I had dropped off the quilt the clerk assured me it would a quick turn around and probably not even take two weeks.  I called at weeks 2 and 3 but the clerk didn't know when the quilt would be in and finally I asked for the quilter's number.  That's when I found out that the quilt was stuck on the machine.  (Why didn't she call me????)  She said the person to fix the machine was on holiday in Durban (across the country) and would not be around for another week.  She thought she could get the quilt to the shop in a week and a half, assuming the machine was fixed.  Yikes!  I told her I was leaving soon and really needed the quilt--I wanted to finish it before my sewing machine was packed away. I was able to pick up the quilt on Friday and finished the binding this weekend.
Of course I have used some Spoonflower fabrics on this quilt.  My middle child had fun picking out the fabrics but most importantly to him we found a fabric with Axolotls, an endangered Mexican amphibian and his favorite animal.  With the Axolotls we found our theme and it was not hard for him to choose his other fabrics.  I also noticed I had an incredible amount of watery fabric in my own stash so I only had to supplement the fabric selection with a few darker colors.
The fabrics available on Spoonflower are labeled:  A. Squids in Space! by caenirminger B. Axolotls 1 by tenderlovingclaire
C. small Bloom of Jellyfish by Plushplay  D. Big Five Dots by Bloomingwyldeiris  E. If By Ocean - Beach Block Coordinate - Octodot Light by TTOZ  F. Deap Sea Alphabet by Maile  G. Under the Sea by Valentinaramos
Laying out the design was fun.  I envisioned the movement of water; the lights and darks that play upon the surface of waves.  The wave action is how I decided to use triangles and the alternating light and dark fabrics.  Only later did I discover I made a kind of Chevron quilt.  I used the end pieces of the strips I sewed to make the binding, which I had to supplement with some extra triangles of fabric.    
This will be my last quilt for a while.  It has been fun and interesting and I am sure I will be quilting again in the future.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Collaborative Color Block Quilt

Margaret, pictured above, is my part time housekeeper.  In addition to helping my home be cleaner than it has ever been Margaret has helped me with quiltmaking activities:  prewashing fabrics, ironing and cutting squares.  She seemed to enjoy my quilts so I invited her to go through my fabric stash.  We discussed the colors she liked and how to have a framework of color and pattern to give the quilt some unity.  She cut out all the squares and we collaborated on the layout. 
Thanks to you Margaret for all you do to help our family!
An aside, this blog is likely to see a surge in posting over the next couple of weeks and then a couple of months of silence.  Our family is getting ready to move and will be traveling before we settle in our new home, Senegal.  I have enjoyed my time in South Africa and will miss my new friends, including Margaret.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Greek Goddess Fabric Design

Tada!  Another fabric design, another contest.  This time I have entered into the Spoonflower weekly contest, themed: Handrawn.  If you like my work, please consider voting for it sometime this week.  There is a lot of competition this round.  My fabric will be available for sale in Kona cotton in about three weeks.  The original drawings are in color pencil and pen on watercolor paper.
It all started with a couple recent Greek Goddess themed ATC swaps for at  I found I enjoyed researching the subjects of the swap and creating images. When I was a girl, one of my favorite books was filled with the myths of Greece and Rome.  It was a book printed in the late 1800s and must have had a lot of fairly contemporary artwork for the time.  The black and white pictures (glued into the book) included sculptures and paintings which included many of the Romantic painters, as well as many Neo-Classical masterpieces.  This book was not the classic Bullfinch's Mythology that I had seen in the school library but a similar book, Myths of Greece and Rome by H A Guerber published in 1893.  I just loved the stories and the art.  It has been many years since I last saw that book and so I had forgotten a lot of the stories I once knew.  Rereading the backgrounds on the Goddess has been really interesting.
I have drawn upon comic book art, pinups and the artwork of Alphonse Mucha for the inspiration.  For example, my Medusa was inspired by a Alphonse Mucha calendar I have.  Her pose is after the dancer in Mucha's La Danse. Mucha is an Art Nouveau artist who was basically a pin up artist with flair.
I have tried to incorporate what I know of the temperaments of each Goddess from my research into the poses.  Aphrodite (aka Venus) originally more than the pin-up she is popularly portrayed as, was the Goddess of what draws life to create more life. I have attempted to draw her as a desirous, mischievous character. Athena is the Goddess of Wisdom and War. I have tried to represent her as intelligent, proud and determined. Artemis was a Goddess of the moon who is independent of men and a hunter. She is represented as an athletic woman, relaxed in her power. Hera is a proud, mature woman, she is believed to have joined the Greek pantheon from Egypt where she was Hathor.  Gaia, the Earth I have drawn as a lush woman.  Demeter and Persephone are mother and daughter.  Demeter is the grain Goddess and her daughter the Goddess of Spring.  Circe is a minor Goddess and is featured in the Oddessy.  She clearly gets a lot of come-ons from men if one looks at the number of pigs on her island.  Circe was known to change men into pigs if they disrespected her.  It is arguable whether Medusa was a Goddess during Greek times but it was her card that started this who process for me so I will share more information than the brief summaries above.
Medusa was originally a daughter of water deities but in later myths Medusa began life as a beautiful priestess of Athena who was turned into a snake creature when she had sex with Poseidon in the temple.   The snake was a very powerful symbol in ancient times.  The snake was seen as an animal from underground because of its appearance after hibernation but also because the snakes would slip underground before earthquakes.  This underground connection tied snakes symbolically to prophecy and they were kept in the Temples to Apollo, the God of prophecy.   The snake's habit of shedding its skin was representative of renewal and it's phallic shape was not lost on the ancients making it a symbol of sexuality.  In many ancient mythologies the snake was also the symbol of the Chaos that the world was drawn from and was thought to surround the world still.  Slaying Medusa can be thought in terms of civilizing the chaotic and restoring order.
* My periodic notice all images created by me are copyright Penney Hughes and may only be used with permission.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

First Art Commission

 The Dream (Oil on Canvas 840mm x 600mm)
I have loved art since I was small.  For many years I have had a fantasy of being able to commission a piece and finally my husband and I decided to commission a painting from a local artist.  We choose her because her style is reminiscent of the optimistic, love filled work of Marc Chagall.  You might not know it from my blog but my children are really the focus of my life.  This is true for my husband as well.  We decided the painting should celebrate our marriage since, sadly, it is often overlooked in the business of life and family.  Michelle Penny's style was perfect for this subject matter. 
She visited our house and we had a consultation about what we like in her art, what we like about art in general and we told her a little about ourselves.  We wanted a painting with a lot of plants, some references to our time in Africa, and a work of art that was romantic.  Michelle Penny returned to us with the artwork below and this description.   
Here is her description: "You guys told me that you love the out doors an plants. You told me how you met via a personal advert in the newspaper an that you had a dream of your husband before you met him. As if it was your destiny in a dream. Your husband also mentioned that your specific religion is important to you.

I started off by using Henri Rosseau s painting of  'the dream ' as my starting inspiration. I have painted you as the beautiful woman slumbering on a royal purple couch dreaming in a beautiful garden awaiting her dream soul mate coming down from the heavens. There are elements of Africa. As well as a spiritual creature flying in the back ground holding a challis. As a symbol of your religion."

THE DREAM (HOMAGE TO HENRI ROSSEAU) (Oil on canvas 1200 x 900mm)
We loved the painting.  The only problem was a misunderstanding of the price agreed upon.  So here is the moral to my story.  No matter how cordial relations are between yourself and the artist you are working with get your expectations in writing.  In this case, Michelle was willing to paint a second painting of a smaller size to more accurately reflect the price we were paying.  Her original painting was receiving a lot of attention and she was confident she would sell it.  The loss was ours because I believe the original painting is the better executed of the two.  Still I am happy with the resolution we were able to work out and pleased with this celebration of our marriage.
Maybe someday I will share my dream which was the inspiration for these paintings.

Friday, May 11, 2012

I Sew for My Little Girl...Again

In South Africa there is a local fabric known as Shweshwe.  Shweshwe is a cotton fabric heavier than a quilting weight cotton but lighter than denim.  When I picked it up from the store the sales lady told me "You need to soak it for four hours in salt water and then wash it.  The material comes with A LOT of starch in it and a distinctive odour.  A very interesting history of Shweshwe is found on the (d)urban(a) blog
I have been hoping for a good project to use my Shweshwe on (pictured right) and knew I found it when I ran across the Rumble Tumble Coveralls tutorial from the Blooms and Bugs blog. You can see my daughter is enjoying her new overalls and, of course, I added the obligatory pink details.  There are changes I will make if I sew this a second time.  I think I would button the straps on the inside of the yoke.  I am also learning that when measuring add a little extra for wiggle room.  I had to add an insert on the backside to make room for the diaper.

Friday, May 4, 2012


Fabric8, a fabric design contest, sponsered by Spoonflower and Kaufmann fabrics is up for voting over the next week.  The contest was to use pen and ink with watercolor.  If you click on the link for voting you will see that they were searching for a particular look.  My fabric, Love in All Seasons, did not make the first cut but I think it was a strong design.
I once read in a sewing book that if you improve your fit by 10% each garmet you will be sewing like a pro in no time at all.  I hope this axiom is true about designing fabrics as well.  My fabric is being test printed and will be available for sale in about 3 weeks. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ms Brigitte & Reclaiming Ugly Old Cards

On swap-bot there are always designers you really hope you will receive from.  Brigitte is one of those for me.  Since I signed up for her fashion and mythology themed swaps I have hoped to get paired with her.  Now I am finally getting to swap cards with her through a private swap.  Elements of her style (as seen on her blog) have influenced my Harlequin ATC and also the project below.  The Harlequin is the fabulous model Akoul (more below.)  I used stamps, magazine & commercial paper collage and brads in my design.

There have been a bunch Pomegranate cards sitting around a box in my office (known as the crucible) for a few years.  I ordered packs of 50 cards with blank, birthday and Christmas themes knowing that I would like most of the art featured on them.  The packs had dwindled down to a few cards with designs which aren't exactly ugly, but were not to my taste.  I was considering Freecylcing the cards and purchasing new when it occurred to me, why not collage the covers?  Over the last few weeks I have been going through magazines and cutting out pictures while at doctors offices, appointments and as a passenger in the car.  I have assembled two sets that I am pleased with, Buddhist Gardens and Akoul. In both sets the garden/flower images were all taken from a South African Gardening magazine.

The Akoul cards I assembled simply because I think she is an intriguing model.  I first saw her in Ideas magazine at a doctor's office and it seems she is fairly new to modeling.  She has such a captivating face--she looks just like a doll my sister gave to my daughter.  Her back story is interesting too.  She was born of Sudanese Freedom Fighters who were trained in Cuba and has lived in Kenya much of her life.  I love that she keeps her hair natural--so rarely seen in the beauty industry.  All images of Akoul come from an (SA) Elle photoshoot.